LaFayette City Council talks hunting, zoning, budgeting

LaFayette City Council talks hunting, zoning, budgeting

September 20th, 2012 by Mike O'Neal in Local Regional News

LaFayette's elected officials last week adopted an ordinance that permits hunting with a bow and arrows within the city limits and rezoned 14 parcels of downtown property to aid revitalization efforts.

Perhaps more importantly, the Council postponed voting on a budget - which the state requires being adopted by Sept. 30 - for the upcoming fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. Not due to major disagreements, but because they wanted to hold a workshop where all councilmen (Wayne Swanson was unable to attend the meeting) could discuss the proposed $5.6 million general fund budget before its adoption.

Department heads had originally asked for funding that would have required an operating budget of about $6.9 million, but that amount was trimmed by about 19 percent overall before being brought before the Council for a vote last week.

"I'd gone over the budget with each council member individually during August," City Manager Frank Etheridge said.

Etheridge said some concerns were raised regarding revenue projections in specific departments. The proposed budget calls for increasing fees at the municipal golf course, raising sewer fees from 80 percent to 130 percent of the water bill and hiking the monthly natural gas fee from $8 to $11.

Councilman Andy Arnold pointed out that $11 is the minimum charge suggested by the Municipal Gas Authority of Georgia for residential customers.

"Increasing the gas fee has been needed for years," he said.

After the meeting, Etheridge said he expected questions would be answered and any issues resolved during a Monday evening workshop.

"The Council will adopt a budget in a timely manner," he said.

Council members did agree last week to a rezoning request that shifts several parcels from an industrial to a business zoning.

The properties in question front North Chattanooga, West Villanow, West Patton and West Main streets and were part of LaFayette's original downtown area. During the 1980s these properties had been zoned I-2 for industrial development due to their location near the railroad and the shift to industrial (mini-storage, body shop, repair shop) rather than commercial/retail use.

The local Downtown Development Authority sees the area as a critical component in overall plans to redevelop and reinvigorate LaFayette's downtown commercial district.

The rezoning is consistent with the city's comprehensive plan. It will also allow the city to move forward with plans to pursue "opportunity zone" designation by the state. Such designation makes financial incentives available to businesses that locate or expand operations within the zone's boundaries.

In addition to benefiting businesses, the rezoning will permit improvements to be made to residential properties in the area, something not allowed while zoned I-2.

The council meeting was not without its moments of levity, particularly when the Council amended its ordinance governing the discharge of "any slingshot, bows and arrows, compound bows, BB gun, air rifle or guns discharged by forcing of air, gas, pressure or any other manner" within the city.

Loosely referred to as the "bow hunting ordinance," the law was amended to prohibit hunting or target practice with bows on property that is less than five contiguous acres and place restrictions on how close to property lines bows can be used, stating that all applicable local and state laws regarding bow hunting must be followed